…Demand that your Senators shoot-down the Water Bill Conference urges Nigerians
Abuja based lawyer and Executive Director of Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER), Barrister Frank Tietie, has asked Nigerians to engage their representatives and Senators in the National Assembly to reject the Inland Water Ways Bill 2020 presently at the Senate for concurrence. It will be recalled that the same bill was rejected by the 8th Assembly and watchers of the national assembly are still very stunned that the bill has been resurrected by this 9th Assembly.
In a Zoom meeting/Press Conference attended by representatives of Vanguard Newspaper, News Agency of Nigeria, Radio Nigeria, Galaxy Television and the Publisher of Crossfire Reports at the CASER Headquarters in Abuja on Monday, 7/09/2020, the Abuja based human rights activist encouraged Nigerians from all over the country and especially the South/South, South East, South West and all riverine communities across the length and breadth of Nigeria to reject the National Water Resources Bill 2020, by registering their rejection of the Bill through their various representatives and Senators.
Barrister Frank Tietie said the National Water Resources Bill seeks to vest the control, management and ownership of water bodies, surface and ground waters around rivers that pass through more than one state in Nigeria. He said the first reaction of CASER is that, the way and manner the Crude Oil Rights in the Niger Delta were expropriated and taken over by the Federal Government, that the same words are now being used in the Water Bill. He noted that, the same way the 1969 Petroleum Act in its preamble and section 1, declared that all Petroleum resources anywhere in Nigeria including its control, ownership and management have now been vested in the Federal Government is the same way the water bill has been crafted. Barrister Tietie said CASER wants to draw the attention of all Nigerians to the fact that the way crude oil has been mismanaged in the last 50 years is about to be repeated in the way water is to be managed in Nigeria today.
He noted that the problem was that, we are dealing with fresh water and not nearly useless sea water that is only good for international navigation. He said inland water is the major source of farmers/herders conflict in the world. He quoted the UN as saying that, conflict arising from water is the most potentially destructive conflict that is challenging the world today. He noted that, at a time the Boko Haram Crisis, including the farmers / herders crisis in Nigeria has led to the death of thousands of persons and has become intractable, we should not bring upon our nation a more devastating crisis caused by water management. He said, as a result of the shrinking water space in Lake Chad, the need for herders in the Sahel seeking greener pastures in the lower west Africa region to move into Nigeria has become a cause for serious concern.
Barr. Tietie, said that water resources, especially fresh water is a major ground for serious conflict across the world. He said whether it is in South East Asia, in Latin America, in some of the countries of the former Soviet Union and even in the Middle East with countries like Turkey and Egypt grappling with issues that have to do with water management, water management has been a major foundation for conflicts around the world. He noted that water is not crude oil and that the federal government has shown that it cannot manage the natural resources of a people for the common wealth of a country because the indices regarding crude oil management are there for all to see.
Speaking further, Barrister Tietie said in the last 50 years, the Niger Delta region has been reduced to a degraded zone with the people accounting for some of the poorest in the world. The environment is so degraded that the air is not conductive to breathe. The people of the Niger Delta have suffered a lot of conflicts that are created deliberately by conflict mongers all in the interest of oil. Persons who own licenses to mine crude oil in the Niger Delta do not have connection to the place and that gas flaring is still ongoing regardless of the legislation and international protocol against gas flaring.
He noted that what the federal government has been interested in all these years is to expropriate the oil, exploit the people, degrade the environment, fuel the corruption that drives the Nigerian economy and Nigerian governance without caring for accountability to the people and the world as well as the amount of crude oil that has been collected. He said this is how the federal government manages natural resources and that if we have a bill like this Water Resources Bill that seeks to control waters that connect one state to the other, the first thought is that it has to do with the River Niger or Benue, but that is not true. He said if you look at item 64 of the first schedule of the constitution of Nigeria under the exclusive legislative list, it describes such waters as waters that would be designated by the National Assembly.
Barr. Frank Tietie said, the water bill in the Niger Delta area like Edo and Delta States for example, in River Ologbo, a very important cultural River that holds traditional significance to the people of Edo and Delta, the federal government would be the one to decide who will live on the banks of that river, who will take the water of the river, give license to people to mine the sand from the river, give license to people to drill boreholes in the area as the bill now seeks to set up a commission in Abuja that will grant these licenses. He said that the Niger Delta has not recovered from the crass and devastating effects of the exploitation of the crude oil in the area and as such, the federal government should not contemplate the National Water Resources Bill 2020 to control water.
Also contributing from the Zoom audience, Lizzy Igbine of the Nigerian Women Allied Agro Farmers Association described the bill as a wake-up call for our legislators at the National Assembly to do the needful as the bill was dead on arrival. She said the River Basin Development Authorities under the federal government have not managed the water resources of the River Basins diligently. She said the appointments are political and unprofessional. She wondered why the federal government is going into this new water bill when it has not managed the River Basins under its control.
Also speaking, from the Zoom conference, Mr. Christopher Uwherimuro said it would be very expedient for the governors of the Niger Delta states to be involved in the process of mobilizing to shoot down the water Bill 2020 by influencing the legislators from the region.
Also speaking from the Niger Delta, Mr. Dortimi Tawari said it was shameful that all our representatives from the Niger Delta are silent on this Bill. He noted that the Petroleum Act is a law that the federal government has used to steal the crude oil resources of the region and that it is very obnoxious and annoying that they are planning to use the same template in establishing the water bill. He said he and his people in the region are in support of any effort to mobilize for a lobby of the legislators from the area to kill the anti-people Water Bill.
Speaking from the Zoom audience, Prince Ighovie Majemite said, the water bill cannot fly and noted that our representatives from the Niger Delta are not doing enough to kill the bill. He said, if need be, the legislators should stage a walk out and the people will support them. He said if the promoters of the bill insist on having their way, then the people of the Niger Delta should insist on having a new country.
Mr. Michael Egiethua, publisher of Crossfire Reports and an advocate for Good Governance, Equal Rights and Justice for all said that, the greatest problem of development in Nigeria is the docility and political non participation of the Nigerian people. He noted that the water bill will bring about no good to the people of the Niger Delta and all who leave along the banks of our inland water ways. Consequently, he called for a mobilization of all the constituents of our legislative delineations to demand from their various representatives, especially at the Senate to make sure the bill is thrown out without any further considerations. He noted that members of the national assembly should be the first line of resistance to this obnoxious bill. He was optimistic that a day will come when Nigerians will wake up from their nonchalant attitude towards issues of good governance and stand up to oppose bad government policies and poor governance.
In conclusion, Barrister Frank Tietie called on all well-meaning Niger Deltans and Nigerians in general to reject the Water Resources Bill 2020.